Back­ers say there’s still time to save nu­clear plants

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - LOCAL NEWS - By John Seewer

A group backed by the owner of Ohio’s two nu­clear plants is tak­ing an­other run at per­suad­ing state law­mak­ers to come up with a life­line for the plants, which are slated to close by 2021.

The newly formed coali­tion, the Ohio Clean En­ergy Jobs Al­liance, says that time is run­ning out and that a so­lu­tion needs to be found within nine months.

Clos­ing the two plants, which pro­duce 14 per­cent of the state’s elec­tric­ity, would make Ohio too de­pen­dent on nat­u­ral gas and take away a re­li­able source of en­ergy, putting the state at risk of black­outs if the sup­ply is in­ter­rupted, back­ers say.

It also would mean the loss of at least 1,500 jobs and mil­lions in tax money for schools and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, they say.

“The list goes on and on,” said Jamie Beier Grant, head of an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment agency in Ot­tawa County where the Davis-Besse nu­clear plant has been pro­duc­ing power since the 1970s.

But op­po­nents ar­gue that a fi­nan­cial res­cue for the plants could in­crease elec­tric­ity rates across the state.

So far, state law­mak­ers have turned back pro­pos­als to sub­si­dize the Davis-Besse and Perry plants, which sit along Lake Erie.

Many of the na­tion’s ag­ing nu­clear re­ac­tors are be­com­ing en­dan­gered be­cause they are ex­pen­sive to op­er­ate and main­tain and are strug­gling to com­pete with cheaper nat­u­ral gas plants and re­new­able en­ergy.

New York, New Jersey and Illi­nois have re­sponded by giv­ing out bil­lion-dol­lar bailouts that will be paid by ratepay­ers to stop un­prof­itable nu­clear plants from clos­ing pre­ma­turely.

Fed­eral ap­peals courts have up­held the sub­si­dies in New York and Illi­nois.

Mem­bers of the Ohio Clean En­ergy Jobs Al­liance think Ohio should look at those states to fig­ure out how to save the state’s nu­clear in­dus­try.

“They have shown the way for­ward,” said Guy Parmi­gian, su­per­in­ten­dent of a school dis­trict that stands to lose mil­lions of dol­lars if the Davis-Besse plant closes.

Lake County Com­mis­sioner Jerry Cirino said a plan needs to be in place by May or June be­cause that’s when FirstEn­ergy So­lu­tions must de­cide whether to com­mit to close or re­fuel the Davis-Besse plant.

Once that hap­pens, he said, “there’s no turn­ing back.”

Cirino said he’s still op­ti­mistic some­thing will be worked out be­cause other states “dis­cov­ered the po­lit­i­cal will to get it done once it got grim there.”

“I don’t think it’s ask­ing the world for peo­ple to un­der­stand that what’s good for the north­ern re­gion is good for the state,” he said. “If these two plants close, there would be a rip­ple ef­fect across the state.”

Lake County has a nu­clear power plant in North Perry Vil­lage.

NEWS-HER­ALD FILE

FirstEn­ergy’s Perry Nu­clear Power Plant.

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